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Professor reveals cost of diabetes to society


A DMU professor has revealed how diabetes is costing society more than a million pounds per hour.

And three quarters of that amount is spent on complications which arise because the disease is not being treated properly.

Professor Joan Taylor produced the figures at the first lecture for DMU’s Festival of Ideas in which she discussed her invention, an artificial pancreas, and how it could revolutionise diabetes treatment.

DMU’s Festival of Ideas is a series of lectures by some of the university’s leading academics which looks at how their ideas are shaping the future of education and offers a chance for people to learn something new. The Festival is open to students, staff and the public.

Professor Taylor’s talk looked at the history of diabetes treatment, including the discovery of insulin, the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and the inventions which are currently used to control doses of insulin for diabetics.

Professor Taylor explained how current treatments still do not manage the injection of insulin accurately and most people with diabetes are “out of control” – having too much or too little insulin in their system – 50 per cent of the time.

This can lead to cardiovascular, kidney, eye and foot care problems which cost the NHS so much money.

Professor Taylor then revealed how 20 years of work has resulted in her inventing an artificial pancreas which requires no electronics and no moving parts.

Instead, the implant, created by Professor Taylor, contains a reservoir of insulin kept in place by a special gel barrier. When glucose levels in the body rise, the gel liquefies and releases the insulin into the body, mimicking the normal pancreas.

As the insulin lowers the glucose levels, the gel reacts by hardening again and preserving the reservoir. It would eliminate the need for diabetics to inject insulin up to four times a day.

Professor Taylor told the audience how a steering group has now been appointed to raise £5m so the pancreas can enter clinical trials. Work on this fund-raising project is due to start in the next couple of weeks.

Click here to see a video about Joan’s work

Toby Tennant, a 22-year-old electronics student at DMU, said: “This was a really interesting lecture. It is great that we have a series of lectures that allow us to find out more about the different research going on around the university. There is so much innovation and it is incredible that Professor Taylor has come up with a device that can help people with diabetes.”

Roy Carter, who runs a consultancy, said: “The talk was absolutely brilliant and the solution that is being put forward for treatment is incredible.

“I have Type 2 diabetes and to hear about an artificial pancreas was superb. It is a very, very neat solution.”

John Jones, an education consultant and alumni of DMU, said: “It was an outstanding talk. I have known a person die because of diabetes. I think the idea of sharing research with the public in this way is one of the great things a university can do.

"Universities can sometime be seen as purely a place for people to learn but there is a significant amount of research – groundbreaking research in this case. To offer this knowledge to the public openly and free of charge is excellent.”

If you missed last night's lecture then you can listen to an audio recording now.

The Festival of Ideas continues tomorrow (Thursday 18 April) with a talk by Darren Sparkes, a senior lecturer in Accounting and Finance at Leicester Business School, De Montfort University, with the title “Project Management - a ‘lesson’ for Sir Alan’s next Apprentice!”

It takes place in the Hawthorn Building, room 0.46, at 1pm and lasts for an hour.

For the full list of events and how to book a place for any of the free hour long talks please visit the website



Posted on Wednesday 17th April 2013

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